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When will student loan borrowers be able to find out if they’re really getting help?

(A hill) – Millions of student loan borrowers are left waiting to see if they will actually receive the relief proposed by President Biden as a challenge to his debt forgiveness plan winds its way through the courts.

The Biden administration opened applications for student loan forgiveness last month and had planned to begin applying the relief this month, but those actions were halted after the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked the measure.

Of the many lawsuits around the country, the six-state GOP-led challenge is the only one so far that has been successful in stopping the program, at least for now.

The administration plans to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loans for borrowers earning less than $125,000 a year and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. But two weeks ago, the 8th Circuit issued an order preventing the distribution of benefits while it considers arguments over whether states have standing to sue over the plan.

A federal district judge previously ruled that the six Republican attorneys general who sued lacked standing because they failed to show that Biden’s program directly harmed their states.

Ultimately, the 8th Circuit Court suspended the aid program to give both sides time to submit their briefs before making a full decision on whether the pardon should be suspended until the entire case is resolved.

Abby Schafroth, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, told The Hill that borrowers will “receive a decision” from the 8th Circuit soon after those briefs are filed.

Legal experts said the court’s ruling on whether states have standing could be the key to whether the administration is allowed to provide aid in the next few weeks or months, if at all.

Michael Sant’Ambrogio, a law professor and senior associate dean for faculty and academic affairs at Michigan State University, said a decision on the states’ motion for a preliminary injunction is expected soon, but the legal process is “rarely fast” when the case will be reviewed in full. to court.

“If they grant a preliminary injunction, I’d say all bets are off,” he said.

Biden said this in an interview with Rashad Hudson of Nexstar he was waiting for help within two weeks, but experts said that would only be possible if the ban was overturned.

Sant’Ambrogio said the Supreme Court has increasingly curtailed the executive branch’s authority to act without express direction from Congress, and the states’ challenge could succeed on the argument that Congress never authorized a broad pardon.

“This is a very bold move by the administration, and there are certainly some questions given the way the Supreme Court has interpreted the powers of the executive branch and federal agencies,” Sant’Ambrogio said.

While Shafroth acknowledged that the lawsuits could take a long time, she doesn’t expect the student debt collection issues to drag on for too long or for the courts to halt the program while they are resolved.

She said “it is unusual for courts to order a party to do or not do something before they have ruled on the case”.

“Usually, a judge has to find that the government is breaking the law before ordering them to stop,” Shafroth said.

The six states that sued – Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina – pointed in their complaint to numerous failed attempts by Congress to cancel the debt in recent years as evidence that Congress did not authorize the administration’s actions.

If the appeals court decides that the states have standing and grants a preliminary injunction, their information on the merits of the case should not be until mid-December. The government will then have 30 days to respond and the states will have an additional 21 days to respond to that rebuttal, which will almost certainly result in the case moving into next year.

The pause during the COVID-19 pandemic for borrowers making payments on loans is set to end on December 31, but the Biden administration may try to extend it again. The administration urged borrowers to apply for aid by mid-November to ensure they receive it in time for the pause.

“It’s hard for me to imagine that this will end in less than a month. It could potentially be two to three months before the injunction is finally lifted,” said Thomas Bennett, associate professor of law at the University of Missouri. “And of course, if the appeals courts agreed with the states that they had standing, it could be much longer.”

He said either side could appeal the 8th Circuit Court’s final decision to the Supreme Court on an expedited basis, adding that the top court would likely accept it if the federal government loses at the appeals court level.

He said the Supreme Court may also be more likely to hear cases challenging the program if several appeals courts issue different rulings on the program’s constitutionality.

Shafroth noted that the Supreme Court had already declined to get involved in one case regarding the debt relief program, Brown County Taxpayers Association v. Biden, and she did not expect them to get involved in Garrison v. Department of Education, a prediction confirmed Friday when the justices Amy Connie Barrett refused extraordinary efforts to block the amnesty program in the Horizon case.

“It remains to be seen whether any other case will reach the Supreme Court,” Shafroth said.

Bennett said in response to Biden’s prediction, “It’s unlikely that there will be any real loan forgiveness in the next two weeks.”

“But in the next four weeks, in the next six weeks, I think it becomes more and more likely whether they can win,” he added, referring to the administration.

While Schafroth said it is difficult to determine an exact timeline for when this could be resolved in the courts, she said she does not expect a long timeline for decisions.

“The parties are very clearly, on both sides, interested in getting these cases resolved quickly, so they’re agreeing to a quick briefing schedule. The courts also recognize the high importance of these cases and resolve them quickly,” she said.

“I think, hopefully, we should get things resolved pretty quickly,” Schafroth said.


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